More a meal than a soup, this is all I need to eat to pep me up at lunchtime during the week. Finished with a good splash of grassy, peppery, extra virgin olive oil, it is unctuous and truly lovely.
200g dried chick peas, soaked overnight
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 dried red chillies
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
3 rosemary sprigs
2 x 340g jars (or tinned) good-quality peeled plum tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre good stock (or water if you prefer)
300g Swiss chard
2 slices of day-old chewy, peasant-style bread, crusts removed
75“90g vegetarian friendly Parmesan, freshly grated*
Drain the chick peas, rinse and place in a large heavy-based pan. Cover generously with cold water, but do not season. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then turn the heat down. Simmer gently for 11/2 hours or until the chick peas are soft, skimming away any scum from the surface every now and then. Drain and dress with 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice.
In the meantime, warm 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a separate pan over a medium heat. Crumble in the chillies and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook for a minute or so to release the flavours, then add the tomatoes and stir well to break them up, adding a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, then pour in the stock and cook for a further 10 minutes. finally add the cooked chick peas and simmer gently for 40 minutes.
Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the chard. Wash and pat dry, then strip the leaves from the pale central stalk, using a small sharp knife; set aside. Trim the stalks and cut into 1cm chunks. Add these to a pan of well-salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, then add the soft green outer leaves and cook for a further minute. Drain.
Break the bread into small pieces and stir into the soup along with the Parmesan, turning the heat to low. Add the chard and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The soup should be deeply flavourful and thick. Add a little more Parmesan and/or olive oil if needed. Ladle into warm soup plates and serve.
* Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano is made with calf rennet. Can be substituted with a parmesan style hard cheese or vegan dairy free parmesan style cheese.